This is what HoneyComb LX2K 16-core Arm Workstation Looks Like (Video)

Back in February 2019, while referring to Arm server, Linus Torvalds famously said:

I can pretty much guarantee that as long as everybody does cross-development, the platform won’t be all that stable. Or successful.

If you develop on x86, then you’re going to want to deploy on x86, because you’ll be able to run what you test “at home” (and by “at home” I don’t mean literally in your home, but in your work environment).

Which in turn means that cloud providers will end up making more money from their x86 side, which means that they’ll prioritize it, and any ARM offerings will be secondary and probably relegated to the mindless dregs (maybe front-end, maybe just static html, that kind of stuff).

HoneyComb LX2K Mini-ITX Workstation

SolidRun had already worked on products with NXP LX2160A 16-core Arm Cortex A72 processor and found out it could be a match to make a powerful Arm workstation so that code could be developed natively on Arm like on a standard (x86) PC, and by the end of March 2019 announced plan for “ClearFog ITX Workstation“.  The name of their product eventually became HoneyComb LX2K, a mini-ITX board fitted with the company’s CEx7 LX2160A COM Express module powered by NXP LX2160A SoC, and pre-production models went for pre-order for $550 in May 2019, with shipping several months later. HoneyComb LX2K is now available for purchase for $750.

The board comes with 64GB eMMC flash, but to create a complete Arm workstation, you’ll need to add DDR4 memory sticks, optional extra storage via SATA ports or the M.2 socket, a PCIe graphics card, and a Mini-ITX case with a power supply which may look like the one shown above. The system is said to consume just around 15 watts at idle. I took the workstation from a video just uploaded by SolidRun where you can learn more.

HoneyComb LX2K 64-bit Arm workstation is primarily designed for developers who can natively develop Armv8 applications in Linux as they would for x86 programs in a PC thanks to a powerful 16-core Cortex-A72 processor and support for up to 64GB RAM. Solidrun is also working on ACPI support and SBSA compliance. You can find hardware and software documentation on the developer website.

Jean-Luc started CNX Software in 2010 as a part-time endeavor, before quitting his job as a software engineering manager, and starting to write daily news, and reviews full time later in 2011.

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admin
admin
5 months ago

modprobe binfmt_misc ; cp -a /usr/bin/qemu-aarch64-static ; chroot /bin/sh

Cant beat that … 🙂

p.s except when java vm is inside the chroot
then again who needs java

Willy
Willy
5 months ago

I don’t believe this will become a successful development workstation. The first thing is that it is extremely expensive compared to what you get from x86 devices which achieve roughly 4 times the same single-core performance, which still remains the dominant factor for every day development (./configure, git, browser, IDE, etc). Second, when you listen to users of non-linux operating systems, they often complain that one specific driver is missing on their OS or that some software is only provided for Linux, and these ones will not work there either. It may sometimes be something as stupid as a multi-function… Read more »

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

It is a standard mini-ITX form factor for this reason. Build it how you want. Put it in a 1RU. I have mine watercooled with an AIO loop and it is whisper quiet. We like the H200i case because it is open and allows you to see the board, not because it is the perfect case for everyone. As for the other bits and pieces missing. Yes there are rough edges, but nobody is going to fix those issues until there is a reason to. We are trying to help create the reason. This isn’t a board for everyone, and… Read more »

willy
willy
5 months ago

Oh don’t get me wrong Jon, I receive these arguments. But quite frankly the price-to-benefit seems way too high for this use case and I suspect that the original area of expertise of the chip is largely responsible for this. I mean, as a workstation, a single 10G or even 1G would be enough. The 10/100G ports are amazingly interesting to build network gear and I even wondered if we couldn’t use your SoM in our LBs (except that in the end it’s limited to 40G and it’s not that interesting anymore). Probably that a scaled down version of the… Read more »

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

I think the price is fair for what it is providing. This is a chip that is focused on specific features that some people don’t care about and we understand that. If you look at the price of an x86_64 equivalent workstation / server grade CPU I think you will see it is quite similar. This is not something that should be compared to your i7 / Ryzen CPUs, but instead your low end Xeon and Epyc offerings. Support for ECC DDR4 3200, multiple 10Gbps networking, Sata with ECC, are all features that you find only on Workstation / Server… Read more »

Willy
Willy
5 months ago

As I said, for a server it’s a nice board and SoC, and the price is even quite correct. But few people need that on a workstation IMHO, which sadly inflates its cost. I’d be glad to be proven wrong because I’d really love to see you continue to succeed on high-end SoCs!

blu
blu
5 months ago

This is not a consumer PC, and does not benefit from the same economy of scale. If you need an arm workstation (because e.g. you’re porting a massive codebase), a ryzen does not cut it somehow.

ProDigit
ProDigit
4 months ago

There is no hardware where there’s no driver for. If you have a windows driver, you can import it in Linux. If you have a red hat driver, you can convert it to Debian. This unit has 2 things against it, 1- Price. No one buys this, to save money, because even at a generous low 20 Watts at full load, it would take 10 years to pay back the difference with an x86 hardware in terms of cost of electricity. 2- performance. I bet you, the unit uses 15W idle, but under load will be close to 20-25W. For… Read more »

ProDigit80
5 months ago

For that price, I can either get a ryzen 3900x with Mobo and ram, or get 25 quadcore AMLogic tv boxes.
I would have superior processing power either way.

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

Yes you can if that is what you want to spend your money on. Neither of those are solutions we are trying to replace.

Max Siegieda
Max Siegieda
5 months ago

I’ll get one, but I won’t scrap my x86 workstation. I spent a couple of weeks using a pinebook pro for work and play. Work was broadly fine (docker, kubectl, terraform etc) but I’d have to get comfy with Qemu for a few key programs like Postman.

Play is a non-starter. Even Minecraft has an x86 only launcher while the game itself is Java.

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

Well there are options. Android games running under SPURV are something I have been playing around with. Alternatively Cloud gaming could be an option if you are into that.

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

Looks more like a cheap Dell small form factor desktop than a “workstation”.

Philipp Blum
Philipp Blum
5 months ago

Interesting machine. I mean: Yes, expensive at the moment. But still interesting. When the price drops, this machine is actually a really great thing. Especially the SFP+ ports are helpful in some situations.

legrostdesbois
legrostdesbois
5 months ago

I’m not holding my breath on price drops, at least not until this is EOL’ed…

willy
willy
5 months ago

I don’t think the price will drop because the SoC itself is rather made for high performance networking gear (100G ethernet is supported for example), and the price is totally fine when you use it to build a new router or load balancer. It’s just overkill for a development machine. I’d rather get a quad-A77 at 3 GHz from a smartphone SoC, it would be much cheaper and likely faster on most workloads!

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

Or just buy a dell desktop to cross compile with from your windows laptop running putty like almost everyone working on linux for ARM is doing.

Max Siegieda
Max Siegieda
5 months ago

I think there are some rough edges you will only discover and then solve through usage of a real device. Take Linux on a phone for instance, you can cross compile apps and test them in an emulator but it would take real hardware to discover a bug that stops you making a phone call.

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

>I think there are some rough edges you will only discover >and then solve through usage of a real device. That doesn’t mean you have to develop on the real device. In a lot of debugging situations the target device isn’t even usable for console output during debugging (CPUs halted) and you have to remotely debug via JTAG or whatever… This is basically one of the advantages (low level debugging mostly works) of using ARM so it’s really weird that people here don’t seem to get that. Linus is right that ARM is second fiddle but wrong about it being… Read more »

willy
willy
5 months ago

I’m never working on emulators, always on real hardware. When you play with network you have no option. And very often the hardware that is very network capable shows terrible performance for development. So what you do in this case is develop on your regular PC using your regular tools, IDE etc, and scp the binary to the ARM machine, or boot it off bootp+tftp etc, and test it for real. I love the MacchiatoBin precisely because it’s the first machine I’m seeing which shows exceptional network performance with reasonably good CPU performance. So it is possible to occasionally build… Read more »

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

>So what you do in this case is develop on your regular PC using your regular tools,
>IDE etc, and scp the binary to the ARM machine, or boot it off bootp+tftp etc, and test it for real.

Setup CI. A few hours of work will shave hours off of your development routine. Once you have CI you can use the “push any old crap to git and rebase it later” development model that allows you to work even from your smart phone while taking a poo. No expensive workstation needed.

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

The development is not about cross-compiling a C program or kernel to run on your SBC. It is about having a local development workstation that reflects what you want to deploy in the cloud. Being able to replicate a problem locally in a python script, a node.js app, a wordpress plugin that you want to deploy on an Amazon Gravitron2 instance in the cloud is very useful. You can invest in local comparable hardware and not have to pay Amazon while you fix problems, then push natively to their instances.

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

If you’re working on something that will be deployed to AWS then you probably depend on stuff that is only available inside of AWS. Unless you can get a machine that is just like the one in AWS including all of the SaaS etc around it then I don’t get your point… also what stops you from developing on any old box and pushing to a regular ARMv8 SBC if you can run it all locally? Also $1000 goes a long way on AWS. If you’re spending that sort of money on AWS debugging then I think you might need… Read more »

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

I think you missed the part where I pointed to interpreted languages that you would want to test locally, especially since the support for ARM64 is relatively new especially at a scale of 16+ cores. This is the point that Linus was making when he said that Arm servers wouldn’t take off until there were workstations for developers. If you are using a specific architecture and running it locally you will feel more confident in the overall software stack and how it will perform because you are developing on it locally before deploying on the cloud. If you write a… Read more »

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

Just to clear something up. A single a1.2xlarge 8vcpu 16gb RAM costs $1782.144 excluding storage for a year of service. This is the original Gravitron not the Gravitron2. If you want to build a local infrastructure for development and testing before deployment then pricing wise the HoneyComb or ClearFog LX2K are quite price competitive. We are also quite workload competitive. https://openbenchmarking.org/result/1905316-JONA-181212252

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

>A single a1.2xlarge 8vcpu 16gb RAM costs $1782.144 excluding storage for a year of service.

That’s a year running 24/7 right? So if you need to debug something you have running on AWS somewhere else you might need it for a few hours a week… so you probably won’t be paying for a year. You’ll also have the advantage that it’s the same environment as you are actually targeting, has all of the same AWS services, works with your existing EB deployment setup etc etc.

Willy
Willy
5 months ago

Your numbers there indeed look really decent, I think you did a great job on that board. Do you think we’ll eventually see a working 100G version of it ? That’s what tempted me the most initially but I got cold-showered when seeing that in the end the 100G is limited to 40G for now.

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

>Linus was making when he said that Arm servers wouldn’t take off until there were workstations The point Linus was making was that until you are sitting in front of an ARM machine, using it for everything and getting pissed off enough with all of the issues to actually fix them then it’ll never work as well as X86 which has had decades of people sitting in front of it, getting pissed off with it enough to actually fix it. The thing he got wrong is that issue exists due to cross compiling instead of 90%+ of ARM development being… Read more »

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

Obviously you really don’t want to use a non Intel desktop. Nobody is forcing this tool on you. This is just a choice that is available if people prefer to use it.

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

>Obviously you really don’t want to use a non Intel desktop. I don’t care if my desktop is Intel. If AMD got their act together and put some effort into their linux support I’d love to spend almost nothing on a powerful machine with tons of cores, memory and IO up the wazoo . I’m certainly not going to pay a premium to constantly fight against a machine that only sorta works as a desktop to be able to say “hey look at my vim/emacs/nano/eclipse.. notice what’s different? Well my $editor runs on 100% vegan ARM instructions so it’s totally… Read more »

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

Nobody is saying that you really need an ARM desktop to do development. We are saying if you would like to have an ARM64 workstation to do development on, then we have a product for you. There are plenty of developers that would prefer this option but haven’t had an option, now they have an option.

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

>There are plenty of developers that would prefer >this option but haven’t had an option, now they have an option. I doubt it highly. There’s no compelling reason why you would care about what instruction set your text editor runs on. Being able to connect multiple fast storage devices, big displays and so on is much more important. You’re making this thing and the best you could come up with was making your life more difficult by just not spinning up another instance in EB… This is a network appliance SoC in a PC case not something like the SPARC… Read more »

Jon Nettleton
5 months ago

So you are upset because this isn’t a portable solution? Why can’t you ssh into your workstation remotely and use it like that if you have a laptop? This is a workstation because it includes high speed storage options, and high speed networking options. You can have a 10Gbps connection to a high speed storage device using NVMe over IP, and another 10Gbps connection to a local build cluster. You can run multiple VMs for testing a native Android app, or Windows on ARM. This obviously doesn’t fit into what you develop on, but it is not restricting workflow anymore… Read more »

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

>So you are upset because this isn’t a portable solution? I’m not upset about anything.. >Why can’t you ssh into your workstation remotely >and use it like that if you have a laptop? If I’m going to do that why does said workstation *need* to be this and not a cheaper generic Dell or HP box? >This is a workstation because it includes high speed storage options >, and high speed networking options. Ugh, no. You have one expansion slot that is used once you put a GPU in it.. and one slot for a local SSD. So this is… Read more »

Max Siegieda
Max Siegieda
5 months ago

“Developers shouldn’t care where they edit text”

I’d much rather edit text on my local machine than on a remote one (latency). I’d much rather edit it on my machine with my configuration than another without it. If I’m in the code, build, test, repeat cycle I want that loop to be as tight as possible so I try to build locally unless my local machine has an Atom 230 or something. Now let’s imagine I’m working on stuff that requires ARM64… You get the picture.

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

>I’d much rather edit text on my local machine than on a remote one (latency). Can you name a text editor or IDE that only runs on ARM64 or produces better ASCII/UTF8 encoded text on ARM64? >If I’m in the code So you want to code on a capable machine that doesn’t stutter like crazy when indexing your massive code base. You might also want to be able to drive two or more 4K displays without the system crapping itself. Commodity gaming PC with an nvidia GPU will do that with enough juice left for youtube k-pop videos playing in… Read more »

Willy
Willy
5 months ago

I have to say I agree with dgp here and what he describes follows my workflow as well. I always cross-compile, even x86 to x86, because 1) it’s the only way to keep a controlled environment (i.e. not accidently depend on a crappy lib you installed the previous day for a shiny new editor), and 2) this allows me to use distcc and distribute the work over our MacchiatoBin load generators and cut the build time in 3 compared to a local build. Certain days it saves up to one hour and a half of pure wait time (and it’s… Read more »

theguyuk
theguyuk
5 months ago

Or due to the Coronavirus down turn you wait and see if you can get a intel i9 at knock down price?
Brutal I know 🙁

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/4000354145934.html?spm=2114.12010612.8148356.2.524459b5ogQEmz

dgp
dgp
5 months ago

pffft. If it’s not big endian then it’s not worth bothering with. How do developers know if they have bugs if they aren’t using the one true endian?

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